July 19, 2021


Constructor: Rebecca Goldstein

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
THE DOG ATE IT (17A: Excuse for missing homework)
SETTING AT EASE (38A: Making comfortable)
YOGA TEACHER (61A: Instructor on a mat)

Theme synopsis: Each theme answer is keeping the word GATE within its letters.

Things I learned:
  • ROMA (31A: 2018 film starring Marina de Tavira) Roma was written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also did the cinematography. The movie won numerous awards, including Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography, making Cuarón the first director to win Best Cinematography for their own film. Set in 1970, Roma tells the story of Cleo, an indigenous live-in maid working for a middle-class family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Marina de Tariva plays the role of Sofía, the matriarch of the family.
  • CREES (13D: Grand Council of the ___ (Nemaska-based group)) Nemaska is a Cree village on the shores of Lake Champion in Quebec, Canada. The Grand Council of the CREES, whose head office is located in Nemaska, is the body that represents the CREES in the James Bay and Nunavik regions of Northern Quebec. The Council also has offices in Montreal, Ottawa, and Quebec City.
  • BUN (23D: Pineapple ___) In 2014, the Hong Kong Government declared the pineapple BUN to be part of the country's intangible heritage. The sweet BUN is popular in Hong Kong, and can be found in Chinatowns around the world. You might think a pineapple BUN contains pineapple, but it does not. The name is derived from the look of the crunchy top of the bun, which resembles a pineapple's texture.
  • CINEMA (46D: Two Door ___ Club) Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday, and Kevin Baird are the members of the band Two Door CINEMA Club. The band's music has been heard on a number of movies, TV shows, commercials, radio shows, and video games. For example, their song, "What You Know," was featured in an episode of Dynamo: Magician impossible, an episode of The Vampire Diaries, two commercials in Indonesia, and is the theme song for the BBC Radio 4 show, It's Not What You Know. The band's name is based on a movie theater in their hometown, Bangor, Northern Ireland. Sam Halliday suggested naming the band after the Tudor Cinema, but he misspoke and said "Two Door" instead. The band decided they like the name Two Door CINEMA Club. 
  • RAT (64D: Rodent such as Master Splinter) Master Splinter is a mutant RAT featured in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stories. Master Splinter is the Turtles' martial arts instructor and their adoptive father. Obviously, my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knowledge is incomplete! However, this clue is an excellent example of making clues interesting and accessible. The word RAT could be clued simply as [Rodent]. However, adding the example of Master Splinter makes the clue more interesting, and is fun for fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Including the word "rodent" as part of the clue allows solvers unfamiliar with Master Splinter to still be successful in figuring out the answer. 
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • THE DOG ATE IT (17A: Excuse for missing homework) Another fun and fantastic clue! Such a classic homework excuse that I knew it immediately.
  • BOWLER (23A: Athlete in an alley) And this clue...such a nice misdirect! For a moment I racked my brain for sports played in alleys behind buildings, and then when it clicked there was a lovely "aha!" moment. My grandma Doris learned to bowl later in life, and was quite an accomplished BOWLER. I have fond memories of her teaching me to bowl.
  • SCIENCES (50A: Pharmacology and botany, for two) I do like to see SCIENCES represented in the puzzle. Pharmacology is the study of how drugs work. Botany is the study of plants. I particularly like the use of pharmacology in this clue, as that happens to be the SCIENCE in which I have a Ph.D. In some ways, the study of pharmacology is much like solving a puzzle.
  • LAS (59A: ___ Vegas Aces) The LAS Vegas Aces are a WNBA team based in Nevada. The team was founded in Salt Lake City in 1997 as the Utah Starzzz. In 2003 the team moved to Texas and became the San Antonio Silver Stars (shortened to San Antonio Stars in 2014). In 2018, the team moved to its current home and adopted its current name.
  • HRT (1D: "Anticistamines") "Anticistamines" is a nickname used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used by trans people. The nickname is a pun on the word "antihistamines," drugs used to treat allergies. (Would you like me to explain the mechanism of action of antihistamines in depth? Not today...? Another time maybe.)
  • FIESTA (12D: Quinceanera celebration, for example) A quinceañera, also known as FIESTA de quince años, is a girl's 15th birthday celebration.
  • TOON (39D: Marvin the Martian or Mickey Mouse, for short) Marvin the Martian is a TOON from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. The extraterrestrial character was originally voiced by Mel Blanc, and first appeared in a 1948 Bugs Bunny cartoon. Interestingly, Marvin, who wears a Roman soldier's uniform and basketball shoes, was unnamed until 1979. Marvin has made appearances in a number of cartoons, movies, and video games. Mickey Mouse is a TOON created by Walt Disney in 1928. He debuted in the short film Steamboat Willie. This is another fine clue. It's an example of a clue type I've talked about before, that provides two examples so that a solver only needs to know one part of the clue to successfully arrive at the answer. 
  • OCELOT (45D: Spotted wildcat) The OCELOT is a medium-sized wildcat, a bit larger than a house cat. I wrote more about the OCELOT last July
  • OTOE (58D: The ___-Missouria Tribe) The OTOE-Missouria tribe is located in Oklahoma.

Geography review: 

  • RIO (49D: City run by King Momo five days per year) King Momo is the king of Carnivals in Brazil and Colombia. RIO de Janeiro, Brazil hosts a Carnival each year for five days prior to Lent. 
  • OMAN (6D: Country that borders Yemen) OMAN is a country on the Arabian Peninsula. In addition to bordering Yemen, it borders the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and shares maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan.
  • HAITI (9D: Country that's part of Hispaniola) Hispaniola is a Caribbean island that is part of the Greater Antilles. The countries of HAITI and the Dominican Republic are located on Hispaniola.
  • ERIE (41D: Pennsylvania city on a Great Lake) ERIE Pennsylvania is on the south shore of Lake ERIE. It's been almost a month since we've seen our crossword friend ERIE. Today ERIE makes its first July 2021 appearance, and its first appearance since June 21
  • NOLA (48D: City with krewes, for short) A krewe is a social organization that organizes a parade for Carnival season. Many krewes are associated with the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA).
What a fun puzzle! I especially enjoyed the cluing today, as you could see from my comments above. In addition to those answers mentioned above, I especially liked OPEN WIDE, BY A HAIR, and KABOOM. This puzzle was a delightful way to begin my Monday.


  1. the PONCHO clue surprised me. such a simple/practical garment that i would have guessed it was invented independently by multiple cultures.

  2. Two Mardi Gras clues, the GATEWAY to Lent. Three if you include FIESTA, and OOH & HOORAY aren't too far away.


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